The Medicine River Wildlife Centre, near Spruce View, had a special visitor Tuesday.
Wildlife expert and TV host Jack Hanna — known for his appearances on TV programs like the Late Show with David Letterman and the Ellen DeGeneres Show — visited the centre as part of a tour around Alberta. Hanna was visiting Alberta to film some episodes for his television show Into the Wild.
“Alberta is one of my favourite places in the world to go to,” Hanna said. He said he is always impressed by the people, the beauty, the mountains, the lakes, the well-manicured fields and the wildlife in Alberta.
While at the Medicine River Wildlife Centre on Tuesday, he filmed the release of two great grey owls that had been rehabilitated at the centre. The television crew also had a chance to tour the site, filming the bald and golden eagles, great horned owls and other birds and creatures that are recovering from their injuries there.
There were more than 200 creatures at the centre at the moment.
Among the birds and animals are a Cooper’s hawk, two Merlin falcons, a northern pygmy owl, other birds of prey and waterfowl, a fawn and even a couple baby beavers.
Carol Kelly, executive director and founder of the Medicine River Wildlife Centre, rehabilitated her first bird in 1984, when a great horned owl was taken into the SPCA in Red Deer. Now staff and volunteers at the centre nurse anywhere from 800 to 1,300 birds and mammals back to health each year.
“Our show is as much about people as it is animals,” Hanna said. “Carol basically dedicated her life to these animals. You can’t go everywhere and find people with this kind of dedication, but thank goodness we have these people.”
Hanna was impressed with Kelly’s knowledge of the birds and animals she helps nurse and that she allows young people to do internships at the centre from places as far away as Germany and Switzerland. Hanna said conservation isn’t possible without education.
Kelly said Hanna’s visit was a break from the ordinary for the staff and it was fun to have somebody with Hanna’s knowledge level come and talk to them.
“This show will go international and so we will reach a wider audience of people who might be interested in getting involved,” Kelly said.
Hanna’s trip was hosted by Travel Alberta. During his time in the province, he has also gotten to visit Waterton Lakes National Park, Banff National Park, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre and the Homeplace Ranch in Kananaskis Country.
The Alberta episodes of Into the Wild are expected to appear on his show in November and December.